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More European countries report cases, situation in Italy worsens

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New cases emerge involving people who travelled to Italy; Algeria and Brazil report first cases

Austria, Croatia, France, Spain, Greece and Switzerland all reported new Covid-19 cases involving people who had been to Italy. The first cases to have emerged in the North African nation of Algeria and Brazil in Latin America were also imported from Italy.

France also reported a second death yesterday, a 60-year-old teacher who had travelled to Italy's Lombardy region.

In Innsbruck, Austria, dozens of guests at the Grand Hotel Europa were allowed to leave after testing negative for the virus. An Italian receptionist at the hotel and her partner had tested positive earlier.

Sixty-two people who had contact with the woman were tested at the hotel - a tourist hub surrounded by mountains that hosts major Alpine skiing competitions.

All of them were in good health but nine were put under quarantine for two weeks "as a precaution", a state government spokesman said.

The woman and her partner have been quarantined in hospital.

In Italy, the outbreak in the north worsened yesterday with more new cases confirmed in the two worst-hit regions and children were found to have the illness for the first time.

Italy's death toll from the contagion, which came to light on Friday, rose to 12. All those who have died so far have been the elderly and most had underlying health problems.

Officials in Lombardy, which includes Italy's financial capital Milan, said cases had risen overnight to 259 from 240 on Tuesday, with four children, including a four-year-old girl, the latest to be infected.

In neighbouring Veneto, the number of people confirmed to have caught the flu-like virus was 58, an increase of 13 on the previous tally given on Tuesday.

After first emerging in Italy in Lombardy and Veneto, the illness has now spread to seven other regions, including Sicily in the far south, with the total number of cases nationwide climbing above 350.

"We should stay calm, there is no reason to be particularly afraid," said Dr Elisabetta Jacona, a Milan resident.

"The only advice I can give, as a doctor, is telling people who are more at risk, elderly people or people with previous pathologies... to avoid going out."

Iran yesterday reported four more deaths among 44 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities to 19 and infections to 139.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour called on Iranians to refrain from travel as he announced the new tallies on state television.

Fifteen new cases surfaced in the Shiite holy city of Qom - nine in Gilan and four in Teheran, with the rest spread out over 13 places all over Iran.

Iran has been scrambling to contain the virus since Wednesday last week when it announced the first two deaths in Qom.

Despite the rapid spread of coronavirus, the authorities have so far dismissed quarantine as an option to control the outbreak. - AFP, REUTERS

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